Return of the southern Red Line

After a five-month rehab project, the train is about to go ALL the way south again

(Heather Charles/Chicago…)
October 17, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

What's dressed in red, in need of a monthslong fix and finally ready to make a comeback? No, not Derrick Rose. (But, yes, Derrick Rose.) It's the southern portion of the Red Line.

At 4 a.m. Sunday, the CTA will reopen nine stations south of Roosevelt Road that have been closed for five months so the agency could replace track plagued by slow zones and make three stations accessible for riders with disabilities.

This $425 million undertaking—one of the largest reconstruction projects in CTA history—required a massive reroute plan. During the project, Red Line trains ran on Green Line tracks, local and express shuttles ferried riders from shuttered stations and the Garfield Green Line station saw more than 10 times its normal ridership as it served as a transfer point.

The CTA said early in the project it retained about 90 percent of its displaced ridership, which used alternate trains, buses and shuttles. It's not clear how quickly riders will return to the Red Line. In April, the month before the project began, the Dan Ryan line saw about 45,600 weekday entries.

The project is expected to cut 95th Street-Roosevelt Road commute times by up to 20 minutes.

"CTA ridership has historically rebounded from major reconstruction projects and even grown," CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry said.

One rider isn't so sure he'll return to the Red Line. Caesar Thompson, of South Deering, said in lieu of taking the Red Line to the Purple Line to his patrol job in Wilmette, he's been riding the No. J14 Jeffery Jump bus this summer to the Purple Line.

The switch has worked out so well, Thompson said, it may become his permanent commute.

"I'll test out the Red Line and see if it's faster. The Jeffery Jump bus … is a pretty swift trip. I think it's a really good bus," said Thompson, 36. "I was never a big fan of the 95th [Street] station. I didn't really miss it."

But Eric Barnes, of Chatham, told RedEye that his shuttle, which picks up at the 87th Street station and drops off at the Garfield station, was terrible and he is looking forward to getting the Red Line back.

Barnes, a second-shift afternoon-evening worker, said his commute to the Wellington Brown Line station has increased by 20 minutes to an hour because of infrequent shuttle service.

"I enjoyed the hell out of the shuttle bus being free. But unfortunately the shuttle bus was worth every dime I paid for it. Good riddance to bad rubbish," Barnes said. "Tell the CTA to hurry up and get the Red Line back on the Dan Ryan where it belongs!"

tswartz@tribune.com

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